What have you always wondered about the economy? Tell Us
Food and Drink

Would you spend $15 for a burger?

Jennifer Collins Mar 22, 2012

Jeremy Hobson: So when I moved to Los Angeles, everyone told me I had to try a gourmet hamburger at a local joint called Umami Burger. I did, and it was good — though I don’t have any problem with hamburgers of the non-gourmet variety. But apparently not everyone agrees with me, because the gourmet hamburger business is now a $2 billion industry in the U.S.

And Umami Burger is getting ready to test the market for $15 burgers nationwide. Jennifer Collins reports.

Jennifer Collins: I’m in the kitchen at Umami’s newest location in downtown Los Angeles.

Chef de cuisine: All right, I need some burgers.

In three years, the chain’s opened eight locations. Now there are plans for several more in New York, Miami, Houston and Las Vegas. The kitchens will be stocked with truffle oil, parmesan, shiitake mushrooms, wasabi. There’s just one rule: No substitutions.

Adam Fleischman: We’re not a build your own burger chain.

Adam Fleischman is Umami’s founder.

Fleischman: We try to give it to you the way we think it’s best.

But food industry analyst Darren Tristano says the “can’t have it your way” strategy could be tough.

Darren Tristano: Americans have come to expect customizable meals that are made to order and it will be difficult to hear the words: you have to eat it this way.

Still, enough people are buying these high-end burgers to justify the expansion. And Umami’s already planning new meats for the menu.

Fleischman: Maybe a rabbit burger down the road.

A rabbit burger, served just so.

In Los Angeles…

Collins: Do you guys do to-go?

I’m Jennifer Collins for Marketplace.

Collins: The umami burger and the truffle fries.

Marketplace is on a mission.

We believe Main Street matters as much as Wall Street, economic news is made relevant and real through human stories, and a touch of humor helps enliven topics you might typically find…well, dull.

Through the signature style that only Marketplace can deliver, we’re on a mission to raise the economic intelligence of the country—but we don’t do it alone. We count on listeners and readers like you to keep this public service free and accessible to all. Will you become a partner in our mission today?

Your donation is critical to the future of public service journalism. Support our work today – for as little as $5 – and help us keep making people smarter.